49ers, Santa Clara Ready for New Stadium

Officials say issues such as parking, traffic and congestion have all been addressed.

After years of wrangling, debate and anticipation, members of the San Francisco 49ers and Santa Clara city leaders will finally put shovels in the ground Thursday evening, marking the start of construction on a new NFL stadium.

The dream of building a $1.02 billion stadium in the heart of the Silicon Valley began back in 2006 when 49ers' President Jed York announced that he wanted to move the team down the 101 highway.

But with York, Jim Harbaugh and Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews officially ushering in the era of South Bay football Thursday -- is the small city of Santa Clara ready for the onslaught of game-day viewers and traffic?

Both the 49ers and city officials say they have addressed the issues of traffic and parking, and there shouldn't be any problems.

"We have addressed those issues previously and an again in the future, but with all of our efforts focused on the groundbreaking event and all that includes," Steve Weakland, the San Francisco 49ers director of corporate communications, said in a statement.

49ers' officials say the new Santa Clara stadium is in a better location than Candlestick Park in San Francisco in order to deal with the rush of game day traffic. Especially on rainy days, when getting to the Stick parking lot is a muddy mess.

They are quick to point out that the new Santa Clara stadium will have 11 freeway entry points, compared to Candlestick's four.

"Fans would likely drive into the area by using Hwy 237 or Hwy 101 and Great America Pkwy, Tasman Avenue, Lafayette, Montague Expressway would all likely get hit hard with game day traffic," NBC Bay Area traffic reporter Mike Inoyue said. "Local streets would be congested but even more of a concern might be where they will park."

The 49ers say the new Santa Clara stadium will have more than double the parking that Candlestick has.

Santa Clara planning officials point out that while the new stadium will have access to 40,000 parking spots in all. About 21,000 spots are on-site at the stadium. The remaining 19,000 are up to a 20-minute walk away.

There are also alternatives to help ease the congestion.

49ers' officials says the new stadium will have light rail and heavy rail access, which neither exists at the team's current stadium.

"The rails would be a good alternate and there is a VTA light rail station at Great America (on Tasman Ave) as well as a Caltrain station (also called 'Great America') so you could park and ride to avoid some of that drama," Inoyue said.

The 49ers broke ground on the new 68,500 seat stadium Thursday and officials hope to play their first game in the South Bay in time for the 2014 season.

You can download a .pdf of the transcript of today's ceremony here.

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